The General Court (case T-456/10) had upheld a Commission decision of July 2010 fining several companies for coordinating prices and allocating sales quotas for animal feed phosphates in Europe (case C-411/15 P). In this case the Commission ran settlement and ordinary procedures in parallel for different companies in the same cartel investigation. Today's judgment addresses in particular the issue of such so-called "hybrid" cases, where some parties settle and others don't. The highest EU court rejected Timab's claim that the Commission had punished the company for not settling and confirmed that Timab had suffered no discrimination for not settling the case.
In July 2010, the Commission closed its first "hybrid" cartel investigation, with two separate decisions, one for settling companies and one for Timab, which chose not to settle the case. Timab brought an action for the annulment of the decision relating to it.
Through the cartel settlement procedure, the Commission benefits from a shorter, more efficient administrative process. If not all parties wish to settle, the Commission can decide to run the settlement and the standard procedure in the same cartel investigation.
Today's judgment by the EU Court of Justice fully upholds the Commission's findings and the fine of €59.85 million imposed jointly and severally on Timab and its parent company CFPR of the Roullier Group. It confirms that the fine imposed on Timab reflected the gravity and duration of the infringement and was an accurate application of the rules concerning the calculation of fines. In doing so, the Court confirmed the Commission's approach to take into account new information in the course of the standard procedure. It held in particular that the Commission can depart from ranges of fines discussed during settlement talks for a company that in the end choose not to settle. In such cases, the Commission is bound to make its assessment and fines calculation on the basis of all relevant elements present at the time of the final decision.
Timab and its parent company CFPR of the Roullier Group were held jointly and severally liable for a fine of €59 850 000 for their participation in the Animal Feed Phosphates cartel for over ten years. They were the only parties who chose not to settle the case. Altogether, the cartel participants were fined €175 647 000. Their aim had been to share a large part of the European feed phosphates sales by allocating sales quotas and coordinating prices, as well as coordinating sale conditions when and to the extent necessary for those purposes.